The Intentionality and Social Information Processing Patterns Associated with Ethnic Minority Children's Aggression

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According to Dodge and colleagues' social information processing model (e.g. Crick and Dodge, 1994) when faced with social situations, children engage in five components of decision making. In previous research using the model and corresponding social information processing (SIP) instruments, deficiencies in different components corresponded with childhood aggression. In particular, a tendency to interpret others' intentions as hostile is associated with aggression. Dodge and his colleagues cite schemas, or mental structures, as responsible for SIP deficiencies. However, the relationship between schemas and childhood aggression has not been systematically examined.

          This study investigated the social information processing patterns and schemas of ethnic minority children in relation to reactive and proactive aggression, as rated by teacher, peer, and self informants. The SIP instrument measured participants' social information processing patterns and the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) assessed schemas underlying aggression using portions of Teglasi's coding system (2001) and coding procedures developed to capture SIP components.  

          The TAT and SIP instruments were not correlated with one another and each correlated with different aspects of aggression. The SIP correlated primarily with teacher rated reactive aggression whereas the TAT correlated primarily with both peer and teacher rated proactive aggression. Prior research using the SIP instrument which found relationships between intentionality and aggression were not replicated. The TAT showed that among second and third grade children, most do not spontaneously consider the intentionality behind a provocation (intent attribution) but do consider the intention behind their response to a provocation (goal formation). Older age--within the two year span, significantly correlated with improved performance on some aspects of the SIP and TAT.  On the SIP, girls were more likely than boys to select aggressive responses to a hypothetical situation, but expressed these in proactive ways while boys expressed more reactive aggression.  Gender differences on the TAT were not present. Overall the TAT was a better predictor of both aggression types than the SIP and this was true for all informants. 

          The use of multiple measures and multiple informants to capture various aspects of aggression is discussed along with implications for theory and practice, and directions for future research.